Rebbetzin Debby Rubanowitz
Kollel Yad Shaul
At mealtime, Boaz said to her, “Come over here, join the meal and dip your bread in the vinegar.” So, she sat down beside the reapers. He handed her roasted grain, and she ate her fill and had some left over.
וַיֹּאמֶר לָהּ בֹעַז לְעֵת הָאֹכֶל גֹּשִׁי הֲלֹם וְאָכַלְתְּ מִן הַלֶּחֶם וְטָבַלְתְּ פִּתֵּךְ בַּחֹמֶץ וַתֵּשֶׁב מִצַּד הַקּוֹצְרִים וַיִּצְבָּט לָהּ קָלִי וַתֹּאכַל וַתִּשְׂבַּע וַתֹּתַר.
The Midrash records:1 “Rabbi Yitzchak the son of Maryon said, “The Scripture is coming to teach us that if a person is going to do a mitzvoh, he should do it enthusiastically and wholeheartedly.
Had Reuven known that his behaviour would be recorded by Hashem (“Reuven heard their plan and saved him [Yosef] from his brothers’ hands”2), he would have put Yosef on his shoulder and carried him to his father.
Had Aharon known that Hashem would record his behaviour when he came to greet Moshe (“Aharon is coming to greet you”3), he would have arranged for a band and dancing in the welcoming party.
Had Boaz known that Hashem would record this simple act of offering some food, he would have offered her a banquet of delicious prime rib.
Rabbi Kohen and Rabbi Yehoshua of Sichnin both said in the name of Rabbi Levi: “In the time of the Tanach, when a person performed a mitzvoh, a prophet recorded it. Now, when people perform mitzvos, Eliyahu writes it down and Moshiach and Hashem Himself sign the record.”
The midrash offers three examples of events in the Tanach in which the protagonists (Reuven, Aharon and Boaz) would have done even more than they did had they realized that it was significant enough to be recorded.
Surely there are numerous good deeds mentioned in the Tanach that were not executed in the best way possible? Furthermore, a superficial reading of this midrash may give the impression that these great people were merely interested in the glory they would receive from an honourable mention for posterity. Surely that is not the case?!
Aggaddic material is rarely meant to be understood exclusively at face value. Often there are deeper messages coded in the wording that our analysis is meant to decipher. In this instance, perhaps one of the insights the midrash is trying to offer all of us is the possibility that we may inadvertently be an active participant in providence. Often one cannot appreciate the potential impact of a good deed at the time of the action. Reuven was the eldest brother reaching out to a younger sibling in need. Aharon was the elder brother showing warmth and no jealousy when his younger brother was about to redeem the nation. Boaz was the head of the Sanhedrin acting kindly to a poor convert.
In retrospect, each of their actions afforded them the opportunity to be part of a process leading towards redemption.
The midrash concludes that today, when people perform mitzvos, Eliyahu records it and Moshiach and Hashem sign the record. Eliyahu and Moshiach are figures associated with the redemptive process. Our mitzvos, however small they may seem, may potentially have a significant impact on the unfolding of history, leading to the era of Moshiach. Even if an action may seem insignificant to you at the time, try to do it with greater focus, greater concentration, more heart and better performance. Perhaps this is your part in the furtherance of Hashem’s ultimate redemptive plan!
1. Midrash, Ruth Rabbah 5:6
2. Genesis 37:21
3. Exodus 4:14